If you're contemplating dreadlocks then you'll want to take a look at my article: "Things to consider before starting Dreadlocks". After that you'll want to choose your dreadlock starting method, the most popular being backcomb, twist and rip or neglect. I have info on that in my "Starting Dreadlocks" article. But if you've already decided you want dreads you've decided on your starting method, then you'll want to get your hair in a dread-ready state and have a few essential items ready for when your head gets dready.
Getting your hair ready:Now for dreadlocks to properly start to form you're obviously going to need hair! The longer, the better! If you're going to use the neglect method, it doesn't really matter how much hair you have, you just need to stop combing and it'll dread as it grows out, but for the other two methods: backcombing and twist & rip it really helps to have a good length of hair. I would recommend having around 5-6 inches or longer, I know it's possible to start dreads with shorter hair than that but: they're more likely to unravel faster, they're going to be very short after shrinkage and also you have less control over the dreadlock thickness as shorter hair can only really be locked into fairly small sections. So ideally I'd recommend growing your hair out to atleast 5-6 inches.
Ok, so you've got the hair length, next thing you need to do is change up your hair washing routine. Dreadlocks form best in clean hair as greasy hair inhibits locking (greasy hairs slip past each other, whereas clean hair knots up). You're going to want to relax how often you wash your hair to prepare your scalp. Dreadlocks are usually washed at least once a week, some wash them a little less often, some a little more often, it really depends on where you live and how active you are. I personally wash mine every 2-3 days. You want to slowly ease into washing your hair using the new routine so your scalp gets used to it. If you go straight from washing the hair every day to washing once a week, you're really going to feel it and you'll get an itchy scalp because your head will still be producing oils at the rate required to keep your head healthy for daily washing! You can still shower every day, like you can with dreadlocks, but just don't wash your hair every day - use a shower cap over your hair, or a plastic bag. I just use a t-shirt tied over my dreads and lower the shower head when I want to shower while keeping my hair dry.
Around 2 weeks before you start your dreads you're going to want to change what you actually wash your hair with. Cut out the conditioner and get a residue free shampoo. Conditioners kill knots and therefore are really bad for dreadlocks. Freshly conditioned soft hair won't dread as well and will be more likely to come loose. Starting with the residue free dreadlock shampoo as early as possible will make sure your hair is in a good dread-ready state and get your hair and scalp used to the shampoo. N.B: If you're going to be using the backcombing method for starting your dreads you will want to keep brushing your hair normally up until the day you start the dreadlocks.
Getting yourself ready for dreads:Even if you've gotten your hair ready you still need to get yourself prepared. The day you start your dreads using backcombing or T&R is going to be a long one. It can take anywhere between 3-7 hours to section off and backcomb or T&R a head of hair, it depends on your hair length, the experience of the person doing the work and how big your sections are. So you'll maybe want to get a book or two ready or some movies. Also get stocked up on food and drink for you and whoever is helping you with the dreads so you don't have to go out to shop with half a head of dreads! I would recommend maybe having some headache tablets at the ready because it can be quite painful having someone pull at your scalp for 3-7 hours and it can leave your scalp sore for a day or two afterwards. You will also need to be prepared for the attention you're going to receive with new dreads. People are going to notice you, look at you and your hair and maybe even come and ask you questions about them. When dreads are new they can really stand out, it's normal for freshly backcombed dreads to really stick up and give you a Sideshow-Bob look. Also be prepared for them to look messy for a few months before they start to mature!
Things to have ready:Ok, here is a list of things you should already have before you start your dreadlocks.
- Residue-free soap / shampoo
- Microfiber towel / a towel for drying your dreads that won't flake into your hair
- Hair dryer
- Dreadlock tam
- Backcombing brush (if you're going to use the backcombing method yourself)
- Bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
- Sea salt
- Lemon juice